STOP PRESS Monday 19 February 2024: today only, you can get the new Storylearning Uncovered (Advanced) Spanish, German, French and Italian courses on a four for the price of one deal. Also in the deal: a 10-week live cohort learning experience. Here are the individual language “Advanced” page links (choose your language and access to the other three and the cohort follows enrolment:
Now, on to my review of the intermediate level courses (the advanced courses, above, follow on from them).
(Updated 25 December 2023) Uncovered (Intermediate) are the new courses for Spanish, German, French, Italian or Japanese from Olly Richards at StoryLearning. I’ve been exploring the courses from the inside and here’s my review: first in overview, then in depth. Listen up if you are at lower intermediate and looking for the materials – and a method – to help you take your language forward towards upper intermediate level or functional fluency (sometimes called B2 level) in 2024.
You can also check out my review video (at the bottom of this post)
Want to go straight to the course info and enrolment page? Here are the links:
Olly Richard’s Uncovered (Intermediate) courses: quick review
I’ve explored Uncovered (Intermediate) from the inside. Before my in-depth review, here’s a quick run-down of the pros and cons of this StoryLearning offering:
- Brain-savvy method, let the story draw you in. Immerse, absorb
- Explicit instruction in videos and quizzes for interaction
- Very full coverage, all you need to get from lower intermediate (known as B1) into upper intermediate (B2) level
- Excellent support (private community, with a native teacher contributing)
- Fully downloadable contents
- Lifetime access, no ongoing fees
- Great follow-on from the Beginner level Uncovered Courses and available for German, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese
- Not suitable if you don’t like self-study and reading!
- Sheer amount of material could overwhelm you if you don’t pace yourself
- No speaking practice included. For speaking you need to organise your own exchange partner or tutor (but the units do include ideas how to use the material in class)
- Upfront investment much higher than with many apps or course book (but less than many group classes or one-to-ones) BUT great bonuses for launch week (once the deal is over, the links in this post will revert to the ongoing deal)
Olly Richard’s StoryLearning Uncovered (Intermediate) courses: in depth review
What is the StoryLearning Method?
You first immerse yourself in the story. Uncovered (Intermediate) is pitched at where you’ll be at the end of the course. That’s to say, somewhere in the lower reachers of upper intermediate (also called B2 level).
So, you won’t understand everything, especially in the earlier lessons.
The idea is that you pick things up from context, by discovery and by intelligent guessing. These are all good habits to get into as this is what happens in real life.
The key is to let the story carry you forward. But, to get full benefit, you’ll need to listen and read the story a lot. No one course or method can suffice on its own. You’ll also need to get listening and reading more widely.
There is also a lot of more traditional instruction in the course (recorded videos by the course teacher).
There’s no direct speaking element but lots of tips on how to use the course with a tutor or exchange partner.
You also get general language learning skills videos from Olly Richards himself to help make you a better language learner.
What’s in the Uncovered (Intermediate) courses?
I’ve explored all six Uncovered (Intermediate) courses: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.
The courses are hosted on the user-friendly Teachable platform (where I host my own courses). You can access via computer, tablet or on your phone but the interface is not primarily designed for a phone.
The Uncovered Intermediate language courses all follow the same structure. Each course consists of ten units, called Chapters.
The core of each Chapter is – you guessed it – the next instalment of a specially-written story. The story is the same for all the languages except Japanese.
After the story instalment, each Chapter contains a further six units and a “comprehension check” section. These are all by the course teacher. The teachers are all natives (except for Japanese where the teacher is an American with an excellent command of the language. He is assisted by a Japanese native for the pronunciation sections).
To finish the Chapter you get a general language learning training vid from Olly.
1. Instalment of the story
An audio recording (mp3) of about four to five mins’ duration. For French and Latin American Spanish include second recordings in Canadian French/Latin American Spanish. The Japanese course has the useful option to slow down the audio.
There’s also a transcript of the audio (about 550 – 600 words roughly two pages pdf.) in the target language only. Then there’s a separate translation in English. The Japanese course has two Japanese transcripts: with full furigana (aid to reading the characters) and an N3 level (intermediate) fuirgana – aid only for the more difficult characters).
You should read for gist and you can check the separate English translation.
You can also download the entire story as a single audio file that will play the first 10 chapters of the story without stopping and a zip file with each chapter as a separate file. Ditto the written version.
2. Vocabulary lesson
Video in English (20 to 30 minutes). These are simple “whiteboard” style videos in which the course teacher picks out samples of language from the story and explains words and phrases. For these videos (and the others in the course) you can adjust the volume. I’m glad to say that you can change the speed too. 2 x speed is too much for me in English but I often find I can cope very well with 1.5 x when I’m reviewing a lesson.
You can download the video lesson but one feature missing (also in the grammar and communication lessons) is the ability to download some sort of written summary of the lesson. Even the slides would have been useful.
There’s then an interactive vocabulary quiz which adds an element of gamification, rather like Duolingo. There are four types of activity including matching up sentences from the story with the English and electronic flashcards.. There’s a timer running in the quiz to simulate some pressure and a leader board if you want to compete with other enrolled students.
3. Grammar lesson
Video in English (20 to 30 minutes). Same “whiteboard” format as the vocabulary lesson. The teacher uses examples from the story to illustrate level-appropriate grammar points. The quiz also follows a similar format to the one in the vocabulary lesson (see above)
3. Communication lesson
Video in English (20 to 30 minute). This is something new (not in the Beginner/Lower Intermediate level Uncovered Courses). The format is that same as the vocabulary and lessons. Takes the new vocabulary and grammar and sets it in a wider context. You’re encouraged to have the printed story pages and your notebook alongside you.
4. Pronunciation lesson
Video (5 or 6 minutes). The native teacher homes in on particularly tricky aspects of pronunciation. In Japanese Uncovered (Intermediate) the teacher, the excellent Nick Godiwn, isn’t a native so there is a different (native) teacher for these lessons.
5. Culture lesson
Each is a short blog post-style essay with attractive photos. In English. The topics are rather random, sometime bordering on quirky: “The Germans and their culture of rules”, “The use of the formal Usted” (in Spanish), “Famous French food” but also one on “François Mitterand” (!).
6. Speaking activities
A two or three page pdf of ideas to get you speaking. You could use these to work with the material with a teacher or exchange partner and in the additional resources section of the course there is advice on how to find one.
7. Comprehension check
A chance to listen to the audio again and a further quick quiz.
Other features of StoryLearning Uncovered (Intermediate)
“Olly’s tips for language mastery”
Short training vid from Olly at end of each Chapter (unit) except the last, Chapter Ten. Each training lasts three or four minutes. They are not lang specific but the advice is both solid and accessible. Just what you’d expect from Olly who has a Masters degree in applied linguistics as well as tons of experience teaching and learning languages.
This is an (optional) moderated community for students with the teachers dropping by (but not in real time – though see the course launch bonuses, below). The format is similar to the Facebook feed. There is a central hub for participants across all the Uncovered Courses (level and languages). You also see posts relevant to your language and level. You have a profile, can ask questions and interact with others. People post fun and motivational stuff.
How to get your Uncovered (Intermediate) course
Click on the link below for the language of your choice. You’ll go to the info and enrolment page. Enrolment is risk free (thirty-day money back guarantee):
How could Uncovered Intermediate be improved?
There’s a lot to like in Uncovered Intermediate but also scope for one or two tweaks. I like to see things down on paper. So, it would be nice to have downloadable course notes. At the moment, you’d have to treat the video lessons like a lecture and take notes.
Teachable is a laptop or tablet platform first and foremost. The course works fine on the Teachable phone app except for the quizzes. Is there any way that these could also work on the phone?
Is Uncovered (Intermediate) worth the money?
So, how much do the StoryLearning Uncovered Intermediate courses cost? Well, they are currently on offer at USD297 with a thirty-day, no-questions-asked money back guarantee.
There is a huge amount of quality material included here but this is still quite an investment. Whether it’s worth it for you will depend on your budget and on your perspective.
It’s expensive when compared with many apps or a course book with audio.
On the other hand, compared with an intensive residential course, an ongoing group class or a series of one-to-ones, it’s a fair price.
Plus, you may find that the investment gives you an additional spur to get into action.
During launch week, there are also great bonuses (disappear after launch promotion: see bottom of this post).
Who is Uncovered (Intermediate) for?
All six Uncovered (Intermediate) courses are free-standing. You don’t have to have completed the lower level Uncovered course (which takes beginners to lower intermediate). That said, the look and feel of the new “Intermediate” courses is very similar to the lower ones so, if you liked those, you’ll like these too. German Uncovered (Intermediate) would also be a great follow-on from my lower intermediate German course, the Weekly German Workouts (tab at top of this page).
StoryLearning Uncovered (Intermediate) is for you if:
- you already have a good foundation at lower intermediate level (known as B1 level) and want to get well into upper intermediate (B2)
- you like self-study with on-line/downloadable materials (though there is a community interactive element to the courses)
- you are a listener and reader by nature
- you can tolerate ambiguity: the immersion/discovery method does involve taking things on trust for a while
- you understand that no method is a quick fix and that you’ll get out what you put in over months
StoryLearning Uncovered (Intermediate) is not for you if:
- you are a beginner, false beginner or still at lower intermediate
- you find motivation difficult or simply don’t enjoy learning if you’re not in a group with a live teacher
- you don’t really like reading
- you think you can buy fluency and you expect quick results without effort
CLICK ON YOUR LANGUAGE FOR MORE ABOUT UNCOVERED (INTERMEDIATE) on the info and enrolment page for your chosen language:
Full disclosure: If you join a course through my link, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I have known Olly personally for many years and have great respect for the quality of his work. That’s why I regularly offer courses from StoryLearning to readers. My reputation is on the line as well, so it goes without saying that I only recommend products that I’ve tried out myself, like and believe could help you.